Monkey key and the Little One by Claire Alexander, published by Egmont Books

Before the arrival of our second daughter we often wondered how our older daughter (who is just over two and a half) would respond to the arrival of a sibling. It’s now seven weeks since our youngest arrived and, to our great relief and delight, so far so good.

Inevitably, there have been a few moments when our oldest’s enthusiasm and usual sweet response to her new sister have been tested. As well as reassurance, cuddles and extra attention, picturebooks have played an important role in helping her adjust to this momentous change in her and our lives.

We’ve written already about the books that we read with her to help prepare her for our new baby. Since her birth, other books that centre on new arrivals and sibling relationships have also played a role. Of these, a favourite is Monkey and the Little One, a tale of initially unrequited affection, about two creatures who struggle to speak each other’s language.

Monkey is happy – whether reading quietly alone, swimming in the tranquil lake, or relaxing in a hammock. From nowhere, a mouse appears. This Little One gets in the way, copies what monkey does, and interrupts the routine. Monkey asks the mouse to leave. The mouse doesn’t seem to understand, and instead continues to impose, even keeping Monkey awake all night with ‘loud music’. The mouse tries to make amends with a flower and a jam sandwich, but Monkey shouts at the Little One to GO AWAY! The mouse understands and without a word it leaves.

Monkey returns to his routine, but “somehow it didn’t seem the same anymore”. He realises he’d kind of enjoyed mouse’s company and resolves to find her. After searching far and wide he traces her to the field of flowers and they share a jam sandwich together. In fact, they realise they have a lot in common and enjoy each other’s company. In a final illustration, we see them sheltering and holding hands in the rain, smiles on their faces, as they keep dry together.

This is a tender picturebook whose messages are as gentle and sweet as its illustrations. It’s an ideal choice for reading to a young child when a new sibling arrives, or when significant change has come into their lives. It’s an additional bonus that our daughter’s nickname for her baby sister is Little One.